Lifting the Smokescreen: Myths vs. Facts About Marijuana

MarijuanaOur country is slowly but surely taking a softer stance on marijuana use. A nationwide survey states that marijuana use is on the rise with 7.3% of Americans 12 years or older using pot regularly in 2012. That’s over 22 million people.

Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states and recreational marijuana has been legalized in four states (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska). It has also been legalized in our nation’s capital of Washington DC.

With all the money spent on campaigns to legalize marijuana in some form, one begins to wonder where the gain lies for those financing these campaigns.

Marijuana is Now Big Business

You’ve heard of Big Oil, Big Tobacco and Big Pharma. Well now, cannabis is edging its way into Big Business. Estimates indicate that the potential market for cannabis in America could reach $110 billion. Recently, the first global brand of marijuana launched with $50 million backing it. This brand, called Marley Natural, has been created with members of the Marley family and is using the same marketing machine that brought Starbucks to 11,900 locations in the US.

This type of corporate takeover will make the marketing of cannabis take on the character of alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals. Not only are massive amounts of money being spent and huge investments made, giant advertising firms are getting hold of the industry and running with it.

They are expected to follow the path of cigarettes and booze in the advertisement arena – that is, creating ads which target young people. Getting people hooked at a young age can only benefit the marijuana industry.

Colorado has already attempted to change how marijuana is advertised, with no success. As it stands, marijuana and marijuana “edibles” (candy spiked with THC) have bright, colorful packaging – much like regular treats. THC refers to tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive chemical in cannabis.

It took decades to change how cigarettes were advertised. While we no longer see tobacco ads on television, alcohol is still glorified on TV with attractive, healthy, well-dressed young people who drink, drink, drink and are positively overjoyed about it.

Calls to poison control in Colorado have increased as children inadvertently or purposefully tried their parent’s edibles. Reports of children eating THC-laced candies and treats at school and during class have increased. Children have been admitted to the emergency room due to eating critically high levels of THC and pot-related deaths are on the rise in Colorado. There are discriminatory ads being placed by employers demanding that their employees be pro-pot in order to apply.

This “wild west” world of legal marijuana has been funded by uncaring corporations who have no problem with harming public health. They care about profit and profit alone.

The Lies vs. The Truth

There are a number of lies perpetuated by big marijuana. Here are five such myths, along with the actual facts:

Myth: Marijuana is non-addictive.

Fact: Marijuana is addictive to about 9% of users. The likelihood of addiction goes up with quantity and frequency of use. Additionally, if the user starts out young, they are 17% more likely to become addicted to marijuana.

THC affects the brain in a similar way to opioids in that there are receptors (cell structures) throughout the nervous system which cannabis affects specifically. These are called cannabinoid receptors and they appear to influence cognitive function and brain development, as well as memory, concentration, sensory perception, and coordinated movement.

The majority of addictive drugs affect the pleasure/reward centers of the brain. Cannabis is no exception.

Myth: Marijuana legalization will make the government money.

Fact: Pot use already costs the government and taxpayers plenty of money. It is the second leading substance in America for which people receive drug treatment. Marijuana proponents state that taxing drug sales will enable the government to offset these and other expenses, but the White House has facts which show this to be untrue. Currently, alcohol and tobacco are legal, heavily taxed drugs. However, their societal cost is estimated to be more than 15 times the revenue gained by taxing them. This is what the federal government considers when rejecting wholesale legalization.

Myth: “I smoked pot in my youth, so it can’t be that bad.”

Fact: THC ratios in present-day marijuana are 20 to 30 times higher than the pot smoked in the 70’s. Associate Professor Ryan Vandrey at John Hopkins University School of Medicine compared this increase to going from beer to liquor. Prof. Vandrey also said that a consumer of THC-spiked edible candies or brownies could end up with enough THC in his system to “knock over an elephant.”

Additionally, marijuana-related deaths are on the rise in places like Colorado. For example, a 19-year old college student leapt to his death after eating marijuana edibles. Another man killed his wife after taking pot candy and prescription pills.

This brings up another point: Pot isn’t being consumed alone. It is taken with prescription pills, with alcohol, and even with cocaine and heroin. The idea that “marijuana is harmless” gives little to no thought about the interaction of cannabis with other drugs – which can be dangerous or even deadly. It also doesn’t seem to consider the hazards of driving under the influence of marijuana. The police have no roadside test for marijuana consumption like they do for alcohol. As cannabis availability and use increases, so too will the numbers driving while intoxicated by the drug.

Myth: Marijuana legalization won’t raise usage rates.

Fact: Legalization of medical and recreational marijuana has already raised usage rates. As of 2012, government surveys showed that 18.9 million people were current (within the past month) users of pot. This is up from 2007, when the same survey showed that 14.4 million people were current pot smokers. Usage rates are climbing year after year, as pot use becomes more and more acceptable and commonplace.

Myth: Marijuana poses no danger to the body or mind.

Fact: There are studies ongoing which are specifically looking into how cannabis affects users both physically and psychologically. Here are just a few of the many side effects of marijuana usage:

  • Impaired judgment
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Impaired immune system
  • Permanent loss of cognitive ability
  • Lowered IQ
  • Memory loss
  • Lung infection or disease
  • Acute chest illnesses
  • Increased heart rate
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Psychotic reactions
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Summary

Sophisticated hydroponic techniques are making more and more potent strains of cannabis. Even genetically engineered (GMO) marijuana is in the pipeline, as are pharmaceutical grades of cannabinoid drugs. This is all quite in addition to the dangerous synthetic pot (“K2”, “Spice”) we’ve seen circulating around. If you think that it’s all in the name of “recreation”, think again. If you want your kids to grow up in an increasingly drug-oriented society, by all means support legal pot. Either way, we have the ethical obligation to educate our youth on the truth about drugs. Very often that means getting educated ourselves.